woensdag, september 07, 2005

eBay 10 Years - Year 1

The Year that Was: 1995
“What I wanted to do was create an efficient market, where regular people could compete with big business on a level playing field.” - Pierre Omidyar
As millions of Americans took to the road for Labor Day Weekend in 1995 a 28-year-old computer programmer with a fondness for philosophy and a strong libertarian streak stuck to his plan to stay home. Pierre Omidyar would spend most of the next three days planted firmly in the spare bedroom in his townhouse in Campbell, California. There, on his computer, he would hammer out the code for a new kind of online commerce service—one he likened to a “perfect marketplace.” At the time most of the smart people around would not have taken Pierre 's idea very seriously. Less than one half of one percent of the human beings on the planet actually used the Internet. And the idea of buying and selling goods or services over this marginal, hard-to-navigate, and unabashedly geeky communication medium seemed even more far-fetched. Just a few months before, Time magazine told its millions of readers why the Internet would remain marginal. “It was not designed for doing commerce,” the pronouncement read, “and it does not gracefully accommodate new arrivals.” Shortly afterwards, Time's rival Newsweek neatly summed up the idea of online shopping with the word: “baloney.” But, Pierre—who had a passionate faith in the potential of the Internet to help people—was undeterred. During the summer of 1995, he had divided his time between his job at mobile communications startup General Magic during the day and his home computer at night. He had always been a believer in free-market capitalism, but it had bothered him how well-connected insiders always seemed to have an unfair advantage over ordinary people. He saw the Internet as way to help solve this problem. “I was trying to think about how the Web could bring real power to the individual,” he recalls. “And what I wanted to do was create an efficient market, where regular people could compete with big business on a level playing field.” On Labor Day, Pierre launched the site, which would allow people to buy and sell items via online auctions, where natural market forces—how much someone was willing to pay—would drive each transaction. After christening the site AuctionWeb, he immediately began to promote it, posting notices at various sites. Slowly but surely, visitors began to post items on AuctionWeb. And within a week items ranging from a 1967 Superman metal lunchbox to a 1952 Silver Dawn Rolls Royce, to a Czech vase were all up for bids. The online auction had been created, and auctions for everything from consumer electronics to comics were underway. By year end, thousands of auctions had taken place on AuctionWeb. Since Pierre was offering his service for free, he kept his day job while continuing to pursue this “hobby” in the evenings. But he also had an inkling that something unusual and great was brewing. While he had stayed home that Labor Day Weekend, he sensed he had actually begun a journey—one that could soon change his life and the lives of millions of other people around the world.

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